Is your cleaning routine safe for your cat?

COVID-19 means we’re all cleaning our homes more carefully these days, but some disinfectants could be harming your cat. Here’s what to look out for and what to do if your cat seems unwell.

Jumping up onto tables and kitchen worktops is irresistible to cats, but the everyday products we use to clean household surfaces may contain chemicals that are harmful to them.

And now that we’re cleaning, spraying and disinfecting our homes even more thoroughly because of COVID-19, understanding how to keep our cats safe is vital.

Which household chemicals can be dangerous for cats?

Many everyday home and garden cleaning products contain toxic chemicals or irritants that can poison a cat or burn the skin, tongue or eyes. These products need to be used with care.

For example, everyday disinfectants, antibacterial products and patio cleaners can be toxic for cats. The same is true for the bleach you use to disinfect the floor, pine cleaners and even products containing essential oils. They might sound good, but they’re not necessarily safe.

Always check the label on any products you’re using and, if possible, consider buying pet-safe alternatives or trying natural solutions such as baking powder, lemon juice or vinegar. Diluting any chemicals you do use and wiping down freshly cleaned surfaces with water will also reduce the risk to your cat.

How can I keep my cat safe with normal household cleaning?

Cats don’t know how to protect themselves, so here are nine simple steps you can take to help them stay safe.

  1. Buy cat-safe cleaning and disinfecting products from your vet or pet store if possible. You can get ones that kill bacteria and viruses but that are safe to use around cats and even in their litter tray. Your cat may well prefer the gentler smell of these too.
  2. Don’t allow your cat to walk over a recently treated surface or stand on a treated area that isn’t completely dry.
  3. When you’re using sprays, move your cat to another room. Close the door to the room you’re cleaning or block the area off to keep your cat away.
  4. Clean up any spills immediately.
  5. Store cleaning products safely in a cupboard, with lids tightly on.
  6. Consider a chemical-free steam cleaner for your home.
  7. If using chemicals outside, such as a patio cleaner, try not to allow your cat to access a recently treated surface, including surfaces that have become wet after rain.
  8. If using alcohol-based hand gels, make sure your hands are dry before you touch your cat.
  9. And, of course, always follow the instructions on the label.

What about hand gels protecting against COVID-19?

Most antibacterial hand gels contain at least 60% alcohol. If consumed by your cat, that could cause vomiting, lethargy or a loss of co-ordination. In large quantities, antibacterial gels could be fatal for cats. Thankfully, the taste isn’t one that cats like.

Stroking your cat after you’ve applied hand gel doesn’t pose a danger either, as long as you’ve allowed it to absorb into your skin. But don’t let cats lick the wet gel, and don’t rub alcohol-based gels onto your cat. Make sure your hands are dry after using alcohol gels.

How can I tell if my cat has ingested something?

Thankfully, cat accidents like this are rare – but they can happen.

It sometimes takes several hours for a cat to show any signs of being poisoned. Equally, it could be sudden, so it makes sense to be aware of what you need to look out for.

Your cat may show signs of:

  • excess saliva
  • vomiting and/or diarrhoea
  • changes in drinking, urinating or appetite
  • twitching and fitting
  • breathing difficulties
  • shock or collapse
  • inflammation or swelling of the skin, or
  • lethargy.

If my cat is affected, how can I treat it?

Act quickly and call your vet, even if you’re unsure. Don’t wait for further symptoms to appear, as by then your cat may be very sick. Wash off any product splashes immediately.

Here’s what you should do if you believe your cat has been exposed:

  • Take your cat away from the suspected poison or chemical immediately.
  • Keep your cat in a quiet, calming place and lock the cat flap shut so they can’t escape outside.
  • Seek treatment for your cat as soon as possible. If your vet suggests bringing your cat in for treatment, do so at the earliest possible opportunity.
  • If you can, take the chemical bottle with you to your vet appointment to help the vet choose an appropriate treatment.

You can get more information at and International Cat Care.

We work in partnership with the UK's animal charities and have seen first-hand the devastating impact Covid-19 is having on their income and the vital funds needed to support the animals in their care. For over 30 years we have been providing 4 weeks free insurance for rehomed pets and giving 10% of rescue pet premiums back to animal charities. In June, to help support animal charities through the Covid-19 crisis we paid over £700,000 in funds that our partners would have received from us in the next 6 months now, in one lump sum, to help them get through the pandemic.

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